Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld are arguably two of the most towering figures in 20th-century fashion; the former, who opened her first shop in 1910, ushered in a pragmatic, modern but luxurious style that would endure for decades, seducing and inspiring successive generations of women. While the late Lagerfeld, her successor, rebooted the house over an incredible 36 years with a verve and an irreverence that set the benchmark for how to breathe new life into historic brands.
So it makes sense that Assouline’s latest coffee-table book, Chanel: The Impossible Collection (priced €820), is a book of two halves. As the name implies, this is an extravagant romp through the greatest hits of one of the most evocative Parisian brands using archive pieces from museums and private collections and gorgeous images by photographers including Edward Steichen, Richard Avedon and Peter Lindberg, as well as illustrations and portraits, all curated and deftly drawn together by the fashion journalist Alexander Fury.
This “museum in a box” covers the designs that were not only radical in their own time but have gone on to become fashion classics: the little black dresses, myriad iterations of the Chanel jacket, the quilted shoulder bag, and costume jewellery, including the founder’s beloved jewelled Verdura cuffs. And, as you’d expect, the book itself is just as desirable as its contents: hand-crafted, with hand-tipped colour plates, a beautiful linen clamshell box – and museum-grade white gloves to ensure it all stays immaculate.